What has happened?
- With the “increased threat” from China along India’s northern borders “likely to remain in the foreseeable future”,
- The Army is launching Project Zorawar — the induction of indigenous light tanks for quicker deployment and movement in high altitude areas.
- These tanks will be used to counter Chinese deployment of a large number of similar armoured columns along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- Sources on Friday said the Army has launched Project Zorawar to induct around 350 indigenously-developed light tanks,
- That can be swiftly deployed by air and are more manoeuvrable and operationally flexible in mountains.
Light tank weight?
- The Army is looking at a light tank with a maximum weight of 25 tons — with a margin of 10% — with the same firepower as its regular tanks,
- But also armed with Artificial Intelligence (AI), integration of tactical surveillance drones to provide a high degree of situational awareness and loitering munition, along with an active protection system.
- An active protection system is designed to protect vehicles from anti-tank guided missiles and projectiles away from combat vehicles.
- The Army also wants the light tank to be amphibious, so it can be deployed across riverine regions and even the Pangong Tso lake in Eastern Ladakh.
- The project has been named ‘Zorawar’ after Zorawar Singh Kahluria — a military general who served under Jammu’s Raja Gulab Singh — known as the ‘conquerer of Ladakh’.
No to Vajra
- Sources further said that the proposed conversion of the Vajra-tracked self-propelled artillery into a light tank has been shelved because it won’t be able to meet the weight criteria that the Army is looking for.
- They added that the 25-ton weight is the maximum that can allow for the tanks to be airlifted in high-altitude zones.
When will the project implemented?
- Sources in the defence and security establishment told that the Army has finalised the general staff quality requirements and will approach the defence ministry in September,
- For the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) — the first step that will set the project rolling.
- Project Zorawar has emerged out of lessons learnt from the continuing 27-month-old military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh,
- Which saw both armies forward deploy heavy weapon systems like tanks, howitzers and surface-to-air missile systems.
- Army sources admitted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had inducted a large number of technologically modern, “state of art” tanks, which were being employed operationally as a mix of medium and light tanks with high power-to-weight ratios.
- The increased threat on the northern borders is likely to remain a threat in the foreseeable future, sources further said,
- Adding that while the Army had also deployed its T-90 and T-72 tanks — surprising the Chinese — lighter tanks would mean faster deployment and increased mobility in mountainous terrain.
- The Army currently operates three different types of tanks with the latest being the Arjun Mk 1A, which weighs a massive 68.5 tons.
- The T-90 weighs about 46 tons and the T-72 about 45 tons.
- “Tanks were primarily designed for operations in plains and desert terrain and have their own limitations when employed in High-Altitude Areas (HAAs).
- They face a similar handicap when employed in the marginal terrain of the Rann of Kutch,” another source told.
Made in India tanks only
- Sources explained that the setback that the world supply chain has experienced in defence-related component supplies,
- Because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has impacted both manufacturing and sustenance of the foreign fleet of tanks that India is currently holding.
- It’s therefore essential to design and develop the light tank indigenously for the Indian Army, they added.
- The sources made it clear that India will not be going in for the Russian Sprut light tanks, but added that they are looking for something with similar capabilities.
- The Modi government had in March this year given in-principle approval for the indigenous design and development of light tanks for mountain warfare.
- This move sealed the prospect of possible induction of the Sprut tanks that the Russians had offered to India during Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s Russia visit in 2020.
Q) India deployed Light Stuart tanks at Zojila in the Indo-Pak War 1947-48. The Stuart tank belongs to which country?